Review: Norco Valence Alloy 1
By Josh Patterson. Photos by Adam Newman
Norco created the Valence line to meet the needs of the growing number of road riders who enjoy long rides such as gran fondos and charity rides, without the demands of competition. I count myself in this category; I no longer race on the road, preferring to use my road bike for exploration and enjoyment. There are four carbon and three aluminum bikes in the Valence family, and the Valence Alloy 1 is the top aluminum bike in the lineup.
The bike’s aluminum frame mimics the tube shaping found on its more expensive carbon brethren. The top tube bows upward and the seatstays curve in to add a bit of compliance. The frame has rack and fender eyelets for urban utility and ample clearance between the seat and chainstays for fenders with 28mm tires. The tall, 165mm headtube will allow riders to run their bars at or near saddle height without a tower of spacers, though I found my happy place by slamming the stem down.
A keen eye will immediately notice the dearth of the latest in road bike standards intended to save weight and improve stiffness: the head tube is straight, rather than tapered, and the bottom bracket uses a threaded shell.
The Valence Alloy 1 is spec’d with Shimano 105 components (save for the crankset, cassette, and brakes). I’ve come to appreciate Shimano’s 105 group for its performance, ergonomics, and value. The crankset is an FSA Gossamer 50/34-tooth. Its performance was acceptable, though shifting is noticeably slower and less refined than with Shimano’s chainrings. Cassettes are a place where companies frequently skimp to meet a price point, but in this case the downgrade from 105 to Tiagra is a plus, as the 10-speed Tiagra cassette has a wider, 12-30-tooth range—two more teeth than the largest 105-level cassette currently available.
On the road the Valence Alloy 1 offers nothing surprising in terms of handling. Like most other bikes in this category, the handling is neutral in all situations. The ride is not stable to the point of steering like a tugboat; the Valence Alloy 1 is still snappy enough to be fun, and nimble enough to make quick line adjustments.
Frame stiffness was on par for a bike such as this; out-of-the-saddle pedaling performance was good and cornering precision was never an issue. The aforementioned lack of stiffness-bolstering features, such as an oversized bottom bracket shell and a tapered head tube, were not missed. Frankly, their absence likely contributed a degree of compliance and comfort.
My only misgiving about this bike is its poor braking performance. The Tektro R539 long-reach calipers are underpowered. Yes, they will bring you and your bike to a stop safely, but they have very poor modulation and did not inspire confidence during high-speed descents, as I could not discern the point at which they would lock up. I attribute this to flex in the brakes’ thin arms. I swapped the R539 for Shimano 105 brakes and the improvement in power and modulation was significant—if I were purchasing this bike, I would make this upgrade before leaving the shop.
Without falling back on the “rides like a bike” cliché, the Valence Alloy 1 does everything a road bike designed for the everyday rider should. It has predictable handling and geometry designed to keep you comfortable for the long haul. If you’re list of up-coming events includes gran fondos, charity rides, or long days in the saddle, this could be the bike for you.
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